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Archbishop - 'Christmas tells us why people matter'.

Thursday 1st December 2005

Remarks delivered by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, at the switching on of the Lambeth Council Christmas lights.

"First of all, thanks very much for the invitation to be here at this terrific event; it's wonderful to be here with everybody to celebrate what I hope is the beginning of a very special time.

"I want to say two or three things about today. First of all it's World Aids Day; it's when we think about people with HIV and aids across the world, and that challenges us at a very, very important level to think about why AIDS matters; why people suffering from AIDS matter, why people orphaned by AIDS matter.

"Second; about a week ago I was in Pakistan visiting some of those who had been affected by the earthquake there, and as winter draws on we're all very, very conscious of what's happening over there. We're conscious of the danger to children, to old people - actually to nearly everybody there - because of the cold and the likelihood of more deaths. Again, we're remembering people matter over there.

"And of course we're here also because people matter to each other in Lambeth. At the back of our garden in Lambeth Palace can look across at St Thomas' Hospital at the new children's wing there, which is so tremendously well-designed. Go round the corner and you can visit Surestart, in Lambeth and see what's being done for kids there. People matter. So Christmas is quite simply a time when we are reminded that people matter and why people matter.

"You've probably noticed that there has been quite a lot of fuss in the papers about Lambeth and Christmas - if you haven't, I don't know which papers you've been reading - but here's what I want to say about that.

"Christmas is the Christian's Christmas present to everybody else. Christmas, for a Christian tells us why people matter. They matter because God took us seriously, seriously enough to get involved with our lives to suffer with us and change things. That's what I believe, that's what Christians believe and Christmas exists because of that belief. You may or may not believe that; you may think people matter for other reasons, but never mind; that's what we're saying and that's our present, that's our gift to the rest of the world. So; think of this time as a time to recall why people matter; the people with AIDS and HIV that we're thinking of today, the people who are under threat in Pakistan, whose lives are at risk, the people here around us who need love and attention and care, they matter and it matters how we react to them.

"I've got an answer I think to why they matter, it may or may not be yours, but I'm glad to be able to share it with you on behalf of the Church. I'm glad to be here and to wish you all the very best, and the most Blessed Christmas you could possibly have, because you matter too."

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